Babylonian Tales

I have included a few stories from the Mythology and Folklore class I took last semester, but I never posted my final project. I had a lot of fun retelling Babylonian myths in different contexts: historical fiction set in the Civil War, modern day life, poetry, and science fiction. The narrator is the scribe god Nabu, who has lived to the present day and wants to try his hand at being an author. I am quite pleased with the final result, which you can read here: Babylonian Tales: The Book of Nabu.

Carving of Nabu


Rhiannon’s Flight

Rhiannon Mabinogi had always known she was beautiful. It had turned into a running joke in her family: their spaceship lacked a figurehead, and if Rhiannon was ever too sassy, some person or other would threaten to make her their figurehead. Not that she was ever worried – with her quick wits and tongue, there was little she could not get herself out of.

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Spaceship. Link.

Except her impending marriage to that baseless cur Gwawl.

Okay, so maybe he wasn’t really a baseless cur. Probably she had just been reading too many stories of her ancestral homeland. But she did not like him, and she certainly did not love him. At every port he called at he took the best of the planet’s resources without heed to the needs of its inhabitants. All he wanted to do was monopolize the space economy. And once he had blockaded the Mabinogi home port, there was nothing her father could offer but Rhiannon herself. Maybe baseless cur wasn’t too far from the mark, she thought as she adjusted her veil.

Now the Mabinogi were a proud bunch. As her father walked her down the aisle, he whispered in her ear, “Humiliate him, Rhiannon. Humiliate him.”

This she was already prepared to do. She activated the portal-maker hidden on the dress, and left Gwawl screaming at the altar. She went first to collect her pod and cloaking device, then took off through time to the land of her dreams, the ancient homeland of the Mabinogi, where the man who had enchanted her across the pages dwelt.

She calculated her course to arrive at the mounds of mystery, which the people of Dyfed believed led to another world. It was easy for her to cloak her pod so that it resembled a horse. She kept it at a speed just faster than whatever the speed of her pursuers was, until the king himself, Pwyll of Dyfed, came riding after her. He called out to her to stop, and she slowed.

“Of course I will stop. It would have been easier on your horse if you had asked me earlier.”

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Rhiannon. Link. 

“Where have you come from lady? And what are you here for?” His eyes shown with wonder and admiration.

“From a land far away, a land of mystery.”

“You are indeed most powerful, my lady. What brings you to my humble land?”

“You, my king. I flee one I do not love to find the one I do, that I might marry him.”

There was no doubting King Pwyll’s response as he gazed at her. Gwawl would certainly come after her, but she would be ready for him.

Bibliography: Lady Charlotte Guest’s The Mabinogionlink.

Author’s Note: In the original story, Rhiannon comes from the Otherworld through a magical mound. She rides on a horse that is always just ahead of her pursuers, until Pwyll, the king, calls out to her. She is fleeing from an unwanted suitor and is in love with Pwyll. I liked her sassiness and wanted to give more of an explanation of her background. I replaced magic with sci-fi tech.

The Shrewmouse in the Land of the Dead

This story was originally written for my Mythology and Folklore class. 

The shrewmouse, Casrarer, had known, from its very first day on Earth, that he was made by Raven to bring cheer to the world. His lot was to rummage around in the grass, looking for worms and receiving praise for its fuzzy cuteness and little pointy nose. Casrarer thought that he had a lot to look forward to. He ignored the rest of Raven’s conversation with man, thinking it would be of little relevance to him.

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Shrew. Web Source: Mammal’s Planet.

Unfortunately, the world soon became in need of more cheer than he could supply. The animals he lived among began to disappear at an alarming rate, and man began to fill the tundra. Casrarer scurried over to Paugnar, the bear, to ask him what was going on. “Why are my friends disappearing Paugnar?”

“The humans are killing them for meat,” said Paugnar sadly.

“Oh no!” Casrarer squeaked. “Are we in danger?” His hairless tail quivered in fear.

“Not us,” Paugnar replied. “You are too small and cute, and I am too fierce.”

“But Paugnar, what happens to our friends once they are killed?”

“There is a land of the dead, inhabited by shades. Humans and animals alike will go there. Raven told me that humans will be judged for their treatment of us.”

Casrarer was glad to hear that. He decided that he wanted to see the land of the dead. Perhaps he would meet the shades of his friends.

That night, as he was dreaming, he thought that he had awoken in a new place. He found himself in a village that seemed to have no end, even for a creature larger than a shrew. He wandered around, looking for his friends, and saw some strange sights. In one house, women were beating other people with a large stick. He overheard someone say that these were the shades of dogs, who got their revenge on humans who had beaten them on earth. He supposed that man who had grass growing through his body so that he could not move had pulled up grass while alive.

Soon after, Casrarer did wake up. He was back in the land of the living, feeling relieved that there was a solution to Earth’s problems after death. In the meantime, he would just do his best to bring cheer in the midst of the suffering. He scurried happily away.

Bibliography: Katharine Berry Judson’s Myths and Legends of Alaskalink.

Author’s Note: I combined two stories to create this one. In the creation story, Raven creates the shrewmouse to bring cheer to the earth and the bear so that not all of his creation will be killed by humans. In the land of the dead story, a girl who dies explores the land of the shades. She sees the sights and judgements that Casrarer (which means shrew in Yupik Eskimo and is pronounced Chahs-rah-rayr) sees in his dream. In another story about the land of the dead, someone visits it in a dream, which is how I got the idea for Casrarer to visit it in his dream.

The Ustu’tli at the Museum

This story was written for my Mythology and Folklore blog

The Fernbank Museum’s new exhibit was drawing huge crowds, to the delight of their marketing manager. Who could resist the giant, nearly complete skeleton of a dinosaur that resembled nothing more closely than an enormous snake with legs?  Particuarly one that had been discovered in their same state, up in the mountains of North Georgia. Hunter, a 10 year old boy who lived nearby, certainly could not. He loved anything to do with skeletons and dinosaurs, and had been begging his mother for months to visit the exhibit.

Unfortunately, the same day that Hunter was planning to go to the museum, there was a solar eclipse. His mother told him to stay inside, as looking at the sun could blind him. The museum was not even going to be open to the public that day, so there was no point in going.

Hunter was heartbroken. His dream was so close, yet so far. He decided to sneak out of his house and keep his eyes fixed on the ground. He knew the way quite well, and the roads were eerily empty.

As he walked across Atlanta, he heard a very strange sound. It sounded like a deep, far-off ribbit. He cautiously looked around, but saw nothing. The day was growing darker and darker, until there was no light. He looked up and stood frozen in shock. The sun was not covered by the moon, but by a giant frog.

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Frog swallowing the sun. Web Source: Fox23.

Hunter decided that presumably the museum would know how to deal with a giant, sun-swallowing frog, so he ran as fast as he could without tripping over branches and pine-cones. He arrived breathless, and slipped inside an open door. The museum exhibits were dark, and no security guards blocked him from the dinosaurs.

Somewhere in the museum, a small animal bleated.

The next thing Hunter knew, a thick, scaly body was moving past him. He ducked out of the way of a leg as it arched over him. Despite his terror, he suddenly realized what an amazing opportunity this was. An ancient, supposedly extinct animal had come to life before his eyes.

By this time, the museum employees had become aware of the chaos in the exhibit hall. “It’s an Ustu’tli!” screamed someone from the anthropology department. “It hates fire!” Another employee was frantically calling the police and the fire department.

Hunter ran around, chasing the ustu’tli. He knocked over a candle that had been lit in one of the offices, and fire began spreading around the building. The ustu’tli roared in pain as its scales began crackling in the heat. By the time the police got there, they were able to corner and shoot it.

Suddenly, the sky grew bright again. All the noise from the chasing and shooting of the ustu’tli had scared the frog away from the sun. Hunter slipped back home quite satisfied with his experience of the eclipse and the ustu’tli.


Author’s note: I based this story on two different Cherokee stories. One says that eclipses are caused by a frog that swallows the sun, which is chased off when scared by guns and drums. The other involves the ustu’tli, a large snake with legs which bleated like a young fawn to scare off hunters. One hunter dared to enter its territory and defeated it with fire. The mountain it lived on in the story is actually found in North Georgia, so I decided to set it at the Fernbank museum which is found in Atlanta.

Bibliography: James Mooney’s Myths of the CherokeeLink.